In the horned forest: Chicago Magazine

Multi-instrumentalist, Andrew Bird and instrument maker, Ian Schneller have again created sonic alchemy for another foray into the Sonic Arboretum. I shot an image with the both of them for this month's Chicago Magazine. See the Chicago Magazine story here on Specimen's website

Andrew Bird and Ian Schneller

The first time they explored this beautiful and dark place was in August of 2010 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The museum asked Andrew to perform in their famous spiraled halls for its new performance series, and like any artist destined for the history books, Andrew took itas an opportunity to try something new.

Photo: Specimen Products

He and his old friend Ian of Specimen Products have been experimenting with playing Andrews violins, guitars through his beautiful, handmade tube amps and horns. They quickly built and carefully shipped some 50 horns of various sizes to the museum and devised how each would transport Andrews music to a packed house.

Behind the scenes images by Esther Kang.

Andrew is playing again on the Sonic Arboretum on December 22 at the MCA Chicago with an ever larger array of multi colored horns. I am lucky to be able to attend and will post some images here after the show.

Watch the video of the Sonic Arboretum performance


Photo editor: Megan Lovejoy

Set design: Angela Finney

Retouching: Tim Blokel

Bio-fuel tech for Fast Company Magazine

When I bought my current car in 1999, I told the dealer that I'd drive it until someday I could reason to buy an alternative fuel car which could carry all my photo shit. That day hasn't come but it seems as though alternative fuel may instead be coming to my car.

Jim Rekoske of Honeywell's specialty bio fuel unit, UOP.

Fast Company Magazine recently assigned me to photograph a chemist for a feature on the growing field of bio fuel technology. Ethanol from corn is currently America's most common bio-fuel. It's used as an additive to gasoline to stem the use of oil. Corn is arguably a poor source of fuel so other sources are being explored.

I shoot Jim Rekoske at Honeywell who's perfecting making gasoline and jet fuels out of camelina, a non food crop grown in rotation with wheat. I visited Jim at his lab in Des Plaines, IL and he happily let me poke around his labyrinth of insulated pipes, gauges and cylinders. His lab was essentially a very scaled down version of what hopes to become large scale fuel production plant.

Jim Rekoske exchanging glances with HAL's younger cousin.

Photographing scientists and artists have been some of my most loved editorial assignments. There's a shared mind by both people. I can relate to how each looks at the world as an unfinished story with possibility for the future. To be either, I believe you need to have faith in new ways of looking at something old. (another post about a scientist.)

photo editor: Marian Barragan
retouching: Tim Blokel

Dark Matter Man

Discover Magazine photo editor, Randi Slatken recently asked me to shoot a leading expert in theoretical physics, Dr. Joseph Lykken. When not appearing on Nova, you can find Joe lurking around the proton- antiproton collider, better known as the Fermilab Tevatron. It's a device out of science fiction in which subatomic particles are smashed together in order to find God or "dark matter", whichever you prefer.

Theoretical Physicist, Dr. Joseph Lykken

Spread in Jan. 2012 issue of Discover (modified layout)

On an overcast fall day we drove an hour through flat cornfields, through prairie grasses and slender trees west of Chicago to the Fermilab campus. We arrived and saw nothing spectacular, except a cold war era building resembling praying hands and rising 16 stories from the red grass. There was in fact lots more to see but it was all happening underground.

Fermilabs main building, Wilson Hall designed by Enrico Fermi

The Fermilab particle accelerator built in 1967 had up until that very week, been happily smashing subatomic particles together in a massive 4 mile underground tube in search of the Higgs Boson and the reason for our puny existence. Now the larger and newer Hadron Collider is doing that work in central Europe.

I had unprecedented media access to the Tevatron because the accelerator was in the process of being shut down. Because of this coup in timing I was able to photograph for the first time, the detector; the exact point where the particles collide and are analyzed.

The Tevatron's collision detector.

What I enjoyed most about hanging out with Joe Lykken was getting closer to understanding the narrow gap between hard science and theology, and how we grapple with the misunderstandings of our very existence. Fermilab is in essence a cathedral to physics.

One of the most thrilling places I had access to was what i called, the "neutrino machine". It's a very loud, Lost in Space robot housed in a metal room used to generate the very subatomic particles that would eventually get smashed together in the Tevatron. A new and improved one is being built today and is not surprisingly the size of a Prius. They now shoot these subatomic particles or neutrinos underground to Minnesota and study how they change along the way.

Where the subatomic particles are made.

Despite the closure of the Tevetron, so much science is still happening at Fermilab on the frontiers of energy, cosmology and technology. If you're into science, they're always hiring.

Long nights up at the Pole.

This week's Time Out Chicago cover deserves a little coal for being bad. Not bad really, but naughty. Time Out Chicago's photo editor, Nicole Radja asked me to create an image where Ms. Claus gets an "upgrade" to her Holiday. Immediately this image of a shirtless St. Nick being admired by a more experienced Vixen came to mind.

Shooting got a little awkward for the talent when I asked Ms. Claus to put her right hand down the front of Santa's trousers. She game-fully agreed but couldn't keep a straight face. Who could blame her?

The issue was recently previewed here on Chicago's ABC channel 7.